Protest at Belfast factory over ‘ludicrous nature of arms trade’ with Thales-built equipment aiding both Russia and Ukraine

A small group of activists has mounted a protest at Thales’ manufacturing facility in east Belfast, over what it called the “ludicrous nature of the arms trade”.

By Adam Kula
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 6:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th March 2022, 6:22 pm
A protestor dressed as St Patrick at the Thales factory in Belfast
A protestor dressed as St Patrick at the Thales factory in Belfast

The demonstrators, a number of them in costumes, demanded that the international aerospace firm “transition to peaceful production which will benefit humanity” instead of building weapons systems.

Thales is a French firm whose air defence division is based in Belfast, having taken over Short’s Missile Systems.

Weapons like its NLAW anti-tank bazooka and Starstreak anti-aircraft missile are built in Belfast – and thousands of NLAWs have been sent to Ukrainian fighters by the UK government, which also plans to send Starstreak missiles too.

In a press release, the protestors said: “The ludicrous nature of the arms trade is demonstrated by the fact Thales is ‘fighting on both sides’ in the war on Ukraine.

“Anti-tank weapons from Thales are used by Ukraine while Russia has bomb targetting equipment from Thales in their war planes.”

This appears to be a reference to something called the Thales Damocles Targeting Pod, a laser-based aiming system for fighter jets.

At least three different aerospace-related websites say that Russia has used Damocles pods for its aircraft (Times Aerospace, Flight Global, and Air Recognition) – and Thales itself says the system is “currently in service” with the SU-30 jet, a Russian fighter plane.

Thales has also had civil aircraft dealings with Russia, providing electronics equipment for passenger jets.

The protest was organised by two groups – one called Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education, and another called Swords to Ploughshares.

Thales said: “[We have] always operated in strict compliance with French and international regulations, including the European sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014.”

More from this reporter:

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdowns having had a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.


Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry, Editor